Dying on its feet’

THE future of Royston s town centre appears to be reaching a crisis point, according to councillors. It was described as dying on its feet and of being in a dire situation . The comments came during a discussion on town centre parking - and the fact th

THE future of Royston's town centre appears to be reaching a crisis point, according to councillors.

It was described as "dying on its feet" and of being in a "dire situation".

The comments came during a discussion on town centre parking - and the fact that in spite of endless overtures about the town centre these seem to have been ignored.

The councillors on North Herts District Council's Royston area committee want to see changes to parking restrictions in the High Street and the introduction of a scheme which will see traders return parking costs.

The Royston and District Chamber of Commerce is supporting the scheme in a bid to encourage trade.

Royston's county councillor Doug Drake told members that in the past two years traders have been reporting a 50 per cent drop in trading.

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"It seems that the district council has the inability to implement decision," he said.

"Someone is just not doing their job, and it is unacceptable."

He added that there were now 10 empty shops in the town centre: FIVE were in Angel Pavement which is looking "run down".

The argument revolves around a parking plan produced 15 months ago by the Royston Town Centre Forum.

It made recommendations which were aimed at improving parking in the town centre and, consequently, hopefully seeing an increase in trade.

One of the key elements of the report was to see loading bays in the High Street become short-term parking places.

This would enable shoppers to use "quick slot" parking

But councillors believe that these have been ignored, although the district council is working on a town centre strategy which is likely to be produced in October.

Cllr Tony Hunter said: "The town centre is in a dire situation."

He is urging the quick production of the town centre strategy. "We have to push for this to be done," he said.

And Cllr Peter Burt said: "We've been talking too long about this situation and nothing is happening."

He said the situation was "unacceptable".

He accepted the situation would not "change over-night", but the council needed to set priorities to look at the problem.

Cllr Howard Marshall said that walking through the town centre had become "a depressing experience".

"The town centre is dying on its feet," he said.

Earlier town centre manager Geraint Burnell had told members that a strategy produced by the town centre group more than a year ago "seems to have disappeared without a trace".

"We need to see that something is being done and there is a great deal of concern about any further delay," he said.

Councillors have called for an urgent report on issues surrounding the town centre.

They have also taken up a suggestion from Cllr Marshall to "walk the town".

The point of the exercise would be to look at other aspects of the town centre: such as the need to repair paving stones and other remedial actions which may be needed.

Cllr Marshall has said earlier: "The town centre was delightful, but now it has become a shambles."

Members were told that one of the reasons behind delays was due to lack of staff.

Cllr F John Smith, the leader of the district council, told his colleagues on the committee: "We have to make sure we have the staff available.

"There is so much work to be done but without the staff it is beyond the district council's capacity," he said.